As I approached the tin door, I was struck by the rhythmic clang of copper being beaten from within. I peered through the window and glimpsed a dimly lit room, where a man in his fifties worked tirelessly at his craft. Summoning my courage, I opened the door and stepped inside, meeting the gaze of a kind-eyed man with a salt and pepper beard and a subtle, but warm smile.

 

As I introduced myself, I couldn’t help but notice his patience and attentive listening. The man in his fifties, half bald with a salt and pepper beard gave me a very patient listening. His eyes yearning

Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he saw me as just another stranger who had stumbled into his shop. After all, as a seasoned professional, he had learned not to trust everyone who came through his door. As he rejected my proposal outright, citing a lack of interest in my particular model, I couldn’t help but sense the deep-seated trust issues at play. From the very beginning as I walked in, he set his cat eyes on me with a sense of skepticism and after all he was not to blame.

But I decided to sit down on the smoky charcoal floor and delve deeper into his decision. As we talked, he began to open up, and it became clear that his reluctance was born out of his commitment to honesty and sincerity – values that he held dear and that I could respect and believe in.

 

As I gained a bit of his confidence, he proudly told me about his journey in the copper industry. For four decades, he had been a self-taught artist, working with an unmatched passion and creativity.  I asked him about his background and he stated he comes from a family of misgar. Yet, he lamented the encroachment of machines and mass production into the industry, fearing that it would spell the end for handmade copperware art, much like the fate that had befallen the shawl and carpet industries. Taking a deep breath, Mr. Zulfikar laments the state of the industry, assigning blame to the black sheep who he believes are causing its downfall. In a world where mass production and cheapness reign supreme, the creative wonder and artistic value of handmade products seem to be losing their footing. While machines may churn out products at an astonishing speed, the handmade approach takes months if not years, to produce, its beauty borne out of the patient and skillful touch of human hands. In a society that values instant gratification, it is no wonder that the allure of machine-made products is so strong. With a quick confirmation and completion time, they offer a level of convenience that is hard to resist. But Mr. Zulfikar reminds us that there is magic to the handmade that cannot be replicated by machines. Every stitch, every brush stroke, is imbued with a sense of care and intentionality that makes it all the more special. AS we imagine the craftsman at work, toiling away in a cozy workshop, surrounded by the tools of his trade, we are transported to a world where time slows down and beauty is created with every passing moment. It is a world where the end result is not the only thing that matters, but the process itself is valued and cherished. And while machine-made products may be more efficient and cost-effective, they cannot replace the unique character and individuality that handmade products offer. Mr. Zulfiqar spoke about the old days when tourists from India and abroad would flock to see the beautiful decorative items he and his peers had crafted with their own hands. Now, he lamented, the demand had sharply declined due to machine-made designs and products. Covid had only added to the woes of the industry.

But as I listened to his story and watched him hammer away at the copper, I couldn’t help but be awed by his craft. I asked him about the tea set he was working on, and he led me on a journey through the entire manufacturing process. From the cutting and shaping of copper sheets to the intricate hand embroidery and buffing, he showed me the level of dedication and artistry that went into each and every piece and I’m here to share that with you.

 

As the artisan begins his craft, a carefully chosen copper sheet is placed before him. With skilled precision, he cuts and shapes the sheet according to the design he has in mind, ensuring that not a single piece is wasted. A true master of his art, he hammers and fixes the different pieces together, creating a sturdy and elegant base upon which the real magic will soon take place. Enter the Naqsh Gor or the designer whose hand-carved designs are a testament to the beauty and intricacy that only the human touch can bring. With nothing but basic tools and bare hands, the artisan deftly etches the most delicate and ornate patterns onto the copper base, each stroke a testament to the sheer talent and dedication required to create such a work of art.

 

Once the design is complete, the artisan takes care to give each piece a final hammering, gently removing any dents and imperfections to ensure a smooth and flawless finish. And then, the polishing begins – a delicate process that requires the utmost care and attention to detail. But for those who truly appreciate the beauty and creativity of handmade craftsmanship, the end result is more than worth the effort. But the artisan’s work doesn’t end there, for those who seek an even greater level of perfection. Buffing and tracing come into play, each stroke adding depth and dimension to the already stunning design. And then, the final touch – black ink injected into the depressions, creating a striking contrast that only serves to highlight the artistry and skill that went into creating these beautiful decorative pieces.Truly, this is a labor of love – a testament to the timelessness and enduring value of human creativity. For those lucky enough to possess such exquisite pieces, they are not just objects to be admired, but treasured heirlooms that will be passed down through generations, a reminder of the beauty and skill that can only come from the human hand.

As the call to prayer echoed in the distance, I left his shop with a newfound appreciation for the timeless human creativity that had gone into every piece of handmade copperware. And I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the chance encounter that had allowed me to witness such a beautiful art form.